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Coral’s Heroes and Villains: Cunning Costa and lionhearted Hammers

Another Premier League matchweek, another round of heroic attempts and underhanded actions for fans and pundits alike to pick over, after this swath of fascinating fixtures from the weekend.

So, which figures in the beautiful game covered themselves in glory and whose misdemeanours lead to headlines? Coral experts present our heroes and villains…

Heroes

David de Gea: Guardian of the goal
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Southampton v Manchester United - St Mary's
The super Spanish stopper was quite a regular in this section last season and, though the keeper risked becoming a villain to Manchester United fans over the summer, he returned to a hero’s welcome upon his first outing at Old Trafford last week.

While Liverpool posed little threat, Southampton proved to be a different story, with the keeper called into action on several occasions to prove just why fans were so thrilled to hold onto the custodian. One Herculean effort in particular, an unbelievable one-handed save from a Jose Fonte flick, was worth far more in points to Louis van Gaal than any mooted record fee for a goalie.

Exceptional Adrian
It was a similar story for West Ham United, now 11/8 with Coral for a top 10 finish, who welcomed back Brazilian post protector Adrian with open arms after he served a suspension. Under the hammer for almost the entire second half, as Manchester City searched relentlessly for an equaliser but ultimately failed, the reliable goal repellent made a series of crucial stops upon returning, to prevent an Etihad mauling.

Another Foxes fightback
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Leicester City - Britannia Stadium
Once again Leicester City came back from the brink of defeat, this time against Stoke City who, in very similar fashion to foolhardy Aston Villa, took an early two-goal lead.

Of course, Leicester were not about to lose, and Mark Hughes had clearly not learned the lessons enacted at the King Power the previous week. Yet again, feisty Foxes forwards Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy proved a points-saving double act as the King Power club, in familiar scenes, scrapped back to earn a draw.

Anti-hero

Saido Berahino channels a great?
And so it was written. Fledgling striker Berahino had to win back West Bromwich Albion fans and teammates eventually, following an undignified twitter outburst and reported transfer request, and boy did he do it in style. Match-winning strikes in Midlands derbies against Aston Villa always go down well, and this one was special.

“His words were it’s a ‘[Zinedine] Zidane touch’ and ‘It was like Zidane’, he felt that he meant it — you can tell he doesn’t lack confidence,” said clubmate Darren Fletcher. We might not go that far ourselves!

Villains

Diego Costa’s dark arts
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Arsenal - Stamford Bridge
Costa’s unsavoury behaviour in on-pitch scuffles is now well known, but referees still seem to fall for the striker’s unsporting antics.

This time the crafty Chelsea star appeared to slap Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny in the midst of their scrap, a situation that was crucial in the Gunners’ eventual undoing, as it was Gabriel Paulista who saw red for his reaction and attempts at retribution. Costa, meanwhile, escaped match without even a booking.

Simon Mignolet mistakes
Liverpool, 3/1 for a top four finish, may yet pay the price on the pitch for failing to fork out for a top-draw stopper in summer. In a repeat of several scripts from last season, it was shaky number one Mignolet who again let the Merseysiders down, as the keeper’s poor punch was pounced upon by Norwich City star Russell Martin to ensure a splitting of the spoils.